Selling Doesn’t Have To Be Scary

Words like “selling” can be terrifying to an artist. I certainly avoided the word like the plague nearly all of my life, ever since I was pressed into selling magazines for my school fundraiser.

It was here, in sixth grade, that I quickly learned that I was a poor salesperson. I would walk up to a neighbor’s house clutching a signup form and brochure and ring the doorbell, secretly hoping that there was nobody home. Unfortunately, the door opened and a preoccupied- looking lady instantly recognized the shyster standing in front of her as that little kid from next door.

I would hold out the signup form halfheartedly and give a weak little sales pitch. I was relieved when I recieved the inevitable “No, thank you” because that meant I could move on from this horrible interaction.

For years, this is what I thought selling was. That’s why I avoided it ever since.

There are several fundamental things about selling that I learned much later, that I didn’t know then. If I had known them, maybe I wouldn’t have given up so easily.

The first is this:

1. Realize Selling is a Welcome Interaction

The only people that will buy your stuff are those who want to buy what you’re offering. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but bear with me here and think about what that means. Our of the billions of people on this planet, there are people who want what you are making. They feel like what you have to offer fits exactly in their wheelhouse. They feel that your art speaks directly to them in some way. And an even smaller amount of that group are truly the makings of a tribe – people who, once they latch on to what you bring to the world, will sit on the edge of their seats and wait for your next thing.

Your first job is to find them. The rest will be easy, provided you truly want to sell them your stuff.

Which brings us to the next important aspect of selling your art:

2. Have More Confidence (Believe In Yourself)

People won’t believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. You have to truly know that your art is worth buying, and that may involve a lot more mental work on your end to make sure that you feel okay with this. You don’t want to go through life secretly knowing that your stuff isn’t worth what you’re selling it for… then you are a shyster, trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

This is a whole other category of thought that we explore elsewhere in this blog… but let’s settle on this fact: if you don’t believe in your work, then others won’t believe in it either.

Think of your unique selling proposition, the one thing you bring that nobody else can. The one thing that makes you stand out over everybody else. Think on it, ponder it, hold it up and examine it. Embrace it, and it will be your beacon of confidence.

3. Think Of Selling As A Numbers Game

The more people you are able to get in front of, the more chance you have of finding your ideal client. They are out there, somewhere, waiting… but you have to find them, or let them find you.

What is the worst, hardest kind of selling known to man? Probably cold-calling. This is known as calling people on the phone that you don’t know and pitching your product to them. It has a very low success rate, but with a well crafted sales pitch, a salesman can go through a list of leads pretty quickly.

So why am I mentioning it, since you probably will not be using this method EVER to sell your art?

Because I want to show one way the pros bring themselves to do it, even when the odds of rejection are very high. If you can incorporate this kind of thinking into your own selling, then you will feel better about your sales process.

Think of the list of prospective leads as a deck of cards. For every deck of fifty-four cards (we’re including two jokers), there is ONE Ace of Spades, right? Well, let’s say you have the stack in front of you and your goal is to draw the Ace of Spades. In a worst-case scenario, how many times will you turn the cards over before you get the card you want? Fifty-Four times, of course!

Well, think about your art this way. If you do the proper research, you can come up with numbers for things like this (just examples, mind you):

  • For every 1,000 visitors to your website, one person signs up for your mailing list.
  • For every ten people that sign up for your mailing list, one buys art.
  • For every 20 twitter followers you get, one visits your website.
  • For every 30 people you talk to at a gallery opening, two people buy art.

If you’ve done your homework, and set up the proper channels for people to discover you and opportunities to talk to them, then you can estimate how many sales you can make. You can also improve your channels and watch your numbers get even better!

Making a number science out of selling (as un-artistic as that sounds) takes the intimidation and fear of rejection out of it.

4. Become a Polished Pitch-Man (or Woman)

Your stuff isn’t going to go out and sell itself. You have to be able to speak and write clearly, effectively, and passionately enough to convince people that you bring value to their aesthetic world.

To be able to talk with people, you need to have a finely honed ‘elevator pitch‘ that is a quick ten-second description of what is is that you do. Write it first, sound it out loud when in private, record it and play it back. You may hate the sound of your voice at first… keep going. Craft your words until they sound like you, until you’re convinced of what you’re saying. This may take lots of repetition and daily practice, but you will feel much more confident when you talk to people if you work on this.

You also need to have written copy on your blog, brochures, and email communication that effectively grabs people’s attention and lets them know about you. Develop your statement about what you do so that it sits on a headline and speaks clearly. Again, type it and read it and modify until it feels and looks like your personal ‘brand’.

5. Develop a Great Presentation

What if you went to a fancy restaurant for a special occasion, knowing that you were going to pay more than you usually do for a great meal… and they bring the food out on a cheap paper plate? Would that be jarring, and affect your opinion of the whole experience? Well, that’s what happens when you sell your art without paying attention to the presentation around it.

How can you have a better presentation? In other words, how can you amp up the quality of everything your buyer or client sees in the process of actually purchasing your art? Everything they see, from your website, email templates, and brochures, to the actual wrapping of your physical artwork (if applicable) all contribute to the overall feeling they get when they think about you and your brand.

6. Realize Nobody Will Sell Your Art Better Than You

It’s going to be tempting to let other people take a cut of the profits and do all your selling for you. While some of this is certainly fine, you need to take the driver’s seat in the selling process and learn how to do it for yourself. Because when you’re trained in effective selling basics, and you take these steps, you are the person best qualified to sell your own art.

Think about it for a moment and you will realize it’s true. If you were the potential buyer/client, would you be drawn in more by a paid middleman, or by the artist him or her-self, talking passionately and convincingly about their own work?

A Final Word of Encouragement

You can do this!

Whatever you think in your mind about the word “selling”, it’s worth revisiting the whole way you think about it. From the conversation you have with people about your work, to the invoicing, to the packaging and shipping, you are always selling. When you think about it in such broad terms, it becomes more generalized to everything you do that presents yourself in a positive light for a prospective buyer or client.

Hack your brain to convince yourself that it’s fun to sell your art. It’s enjoyable to talk about your passions, your methods about the beauty that you bring to the world. Is someone cynical and unconvinced? Then they are not your tribe! Move on to who is…they are out there, somewhere, waiting to hear from you.

What do you think? Is the thought of selling your art intimidating and scary? What barriers do you have to selling your work? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of this page.